As dusk falls in Wellington, a cast - or crew - of thousands will take part in a celebration of New Zealand's voyaging past to open the New Zealand Festival. A fleet of double-hulled Pacific vaka and Maori waka taua, or war canoes, will be the visual highlight of an event that will also include sounds of the Pacific, a mass choir, a thousand-strong haka and a musical score by Warren Maxwell (Trinity Roots, Little Bushman). On 24 February the vaka and waka will beach on the Petone foreshore, inviting people to come on board. (Photo shows a similar scene from Waitangi in February 2015). Maui's Ark will take you behind the scenes, talking with some of the crew conducting a scientific survey one of the vaka will make collecting waste plastic waste as it sails down the East Coast to the rendezvous in Te Upoko O Te Ika - the mouth of Maui's fish, ie Wellington Harbour.
Indonesia, with its 17,000 islands, stretches like a boom net across major sea lanes of Asia and the Pacific, including its links to the Indian Ocean. Indonesia's location and its population of mainly poor but increasing middle class mean it shares many characteristics of the region - including an affliction from plastic rubbish in its seas and waterways and along its extensive coastlines. Maui's Ark founder Stephen Harris is leading the New Zealand delegation to this conference, which we are co-chairing with Indonesia, to gather some of the world's largest, richest and most populous countries to find solutions to marine plastic debris - among them China, India, the United States, Russia, Japan and South Korea, plus New Zealand, Australia and most South East Asian countries.
500 billion single-use plastic bags are consumed annually around the world. 28,500 tonnes of expanded polystyrene (EPS) was produced in 2014, 90% of which was used to make single-use products. The bulk of single-use EPS waste is not recycled. The sheer volume of single-use plastics produced and consumed globally is emblematic of the planned obsolescence that characterises linear economies.
The complexities inherent in the ways in which plastic is produced, consumed, and discarded are never purely material, social, nor stable. As such, addressing the social and environmental issues surrounding plastic requires an interdisciplinary focus that crosses the traditional divisions between the sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities. This nearly-carbon neutral conference aims to encourage presentations that articulate the value and challenges constitutive of such interdisciplinary collaborations.
WATCH! Stephen Harris's presentation on 'The Plastic Chain', describing how we can all pull together to stop plastic choking our oceans and sealife will be viewable here from the start of the conference.